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At the turn of the twentieth century, the legal profession was rocked in a storm of reform. Among the sparks of change was the view that “law in the books” had drifted too far from the “law in action.” This popular slogan reflected the broader postwar suspicion that the legal profession needed to be more realistic, more effective, and more in touch with the social needs of the time. A hundred years later, we face a similarly urgent demand for change. Across the blogs and journals stretches a thread of anxieties about the lack of fit between legal education and legal work and the meaning of best practice in a world still flailing in the economic wake of 2008. In a sense, we are experiencing a collective crisis of legal identity. This Article confronts this crisis with the instinct that many of the profession’s challenges are symptomatic of a deeper, structural crisis about what it means to “think like a lawyer.” We are often told that the key takeaway of legal education has precisely to do with this phrase, which we can unpack as referring to the mastery of a set of techniques, patterns, and modes of legal reasoning. But what if these techniques were themselves in a state of crisis? What if it turned out that the deeply conflicted nature of legal thought was a source of the surface problems with which we are more familiar? It is with these questions in mind that this Article diagnoses the crisis in contemporary legal thought.


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8 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Jurisprudence

    • Legal Education

    • Legal History

    • Legal Profession

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 55

  • Issue
    • 4

  • Pagination
    • 1041

  • Date submitted

    8 September 2022